“Sound objects” is how Berlin electronic music artist André Schöne calls the instruments produced at Svaram here in Auroville; the term lends a ready insight into his indelibly fresh take on acoustic-electronic fusions. The ‘crossover’ continuum has steadily become a no-man’s-land (that is, for the faint of heart), the landscape littered with all too many examples of collaborations between the least interesting in their respective fields (Kenny G and Weezer, anyone?), yet like all such ‘neutral zones’ it also serves as a testing ground of sorts for new ideas in music- a Nevada of the arts.

            And what a blast. As a primarily electronic musician (as well as a bassist), Schöne nonetheless feels that it, in his own words, “often lacks the dimension of acoustic recording with microphones…certain aspects of such recordings cannot be replicated through electronics.” The problem, he feels however, is manifold.

            “This process of setting up microphones, being in the moment, and having the musicians or yourself recorded in this particular room, at this particular point in time. Of course, you’re recording the sound of the room itself too, which is unique. This could never be recreated… And this is the dimension I’m talking about. I want to marry these two worlds, I think they could learn a lot from each other. One completes the other, in a sense.”

            And so, recording to a Tascam Portastudio 4-track with (borrowed) Neumann microphones that any recording musician would sacrifice a non-essential appendage to have, André amassed recordings from Svaram at Kalabhumi to be used as raw ingredients, processing them after the fact to create his soundscapes, which run on a loop of tape that travels physically around the room to create a truly physical listening experience. “Working with [the instruments at Svaram] was emotionally very overwhelming. I mean, how they create these waves that go through the room is amazing… It’s something so simple but so rich in sound…something that has changed my whole way of listening… I think when I go back I’ll be paying much more attention to acoustic phenomena and trying to incorporate them into my work.” 

            ‘Incorporation’ is too weak a term for Schöne’s own approach, however. His ‘world music’ inspiration came first from Jon Hassell, jazz trumpeter noted for his work with Brian Eno, Talking Heads and others, but whose solo albums were an example of what he called ‘Fourth-World music’. In this concept, the idea of a so-called crossover is unceremoniously dropped, to be replaced by a uniquely minimalistic and expository blending of traditions and textures creating something quite entirely new. While other luminaries pop up in conversation as inspirational figures for André- Coltrane and Don Cherry, for example- it is Hassell’s influence that is most telling, both in the music in its elemental form and in its unwillingness to stick firmly to a category of ‘high’ or ‘low’ art. “This was something I really like and I try my best to do myself,” he says of Hassell’s influence. “Not just taking some elements here and there and using them for effect or emotion, but actually diving into these individual cultures. I’d like to use sounds not because they sound exotic, but instead dig deep and find out where they’re coming from, and use them consciously.” Naturally, the trumpet great studied with Pandit Pran Nath for years, a privilege that hasn’t been afforded (this time) to Schöne, which only makes his work more remarkable.

            “Unconsciously, all the music I’m hearing while I’m here in Auroville- different Indian and international folk music and things- all this is somehow finding its way into my piece.” The nature of the piece, or tape installation rather, is ambient, as is much of Schöne’s work, even though he continues to work and explore the Berlin techno and house electronic scenes. This ambient factor is something he considers an integral part of his identity as a musician. “When there is too much sonic information happening, I get overwhelmed very, very easily. Because even one sound can mean the world.”

By Dhani Muniz

Andre Schöne was an artist in residence at La Petite Maison, a collaborative platform that engages with artists to facilitate an in-depth experience of art projects in Auroville (lapetitemaison(at)auroville.org.in, @lapetitemaison.auroville).